Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Discourse Analysis

Discourse analysis studies social interaction. A part of linguistics, it has become increasingly popular since the late 80's.

Discourse analysts often use particular symbols to explain discourse. These may include marks to denote a short pause, a long pause, words spoken at the same time and words which are unclear.

In discourse analysis the two speakers in a conversation are called the speaker and the hearer. Though the word "hearer" may appear to suggest one who is passive or does not wish to participate in the conversation as opposed to the word "listener", this is in fact the word that is commonly used.

Speakers often do not speak directly. For example, the utterance "I haven't played tennis in a long time" may mean "I'd love to play tennis with you". If the speaker feels that he/she has lower status than the hearer, the utterance "When can we play tennis?" may be too direct.

Likewise, if a person pronounces a language incorrectly, the hearer may reply, "Your pronunciation is very good" because the direct "Your pronunciation is incorrect" may hurt his/her feelings. If the reply "Your pronunciation is very good" is said without emotion, it may simply be an attempt to be polite.

Another example of an indirect reply is "Maybe later" to the question "Would you like a cup of coffee?" This is much softer than the reply "No" and is rather common in the Japanese culture. This is particularly true in cases where the speaker has higher status than the hearer.

Discourse analysis is a relatively new and important research area in linguistics. It is important for understanding the ways in which speakers communicate with one another. Based on the relationship between the speaker and hearer, the words which they use can vary significantly.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Castling Can Be An Error

Castling is usually a good move, but not always. If the centre is closed and your opponent can generate strong attacks on the wings, it is better to keep the king in the centre. In a recent game which I played at letsplaychess.com, my opponent castled and I did not. His castled position led to his quick downfall. My opponent was Hillwalker of Scotland who played black. Here are the moves of the game with my commentary.

1. e4 Nc6

Black's move is unusual. The reply Nf6 is far more common.

2. d4 d5
3. e5 a6

I decide to keep my pawn on the board and maintain a strong pawn centre.

4. h3 Bf5
5. Nf3 e6
6. Bd3 Nb4

I challenge black's light-squared bishop. To my surprise, he does not take it but advances his queen knight.

7. Bxf5 exf5

Black has doubled pawns on the f-file.

8. a3 Nc6

Black is forced to retreat the knight.

9. Nc3 g6
10. Bg5 Be7
11. Bxe7 Ngxe7
12. Qd2 0-0

Black's decision to castle gives me a clear strategy. I want to attack on the h-file.

13. h4 b5
14. Ne2 Kg7

I shift my knight towards the h-file. Black's last move is not the best. A better move is h5. Black is weak on the dark squares.

15. h5 a5
16. hxg6 Nxg6
17. Qh6+

Black resigns. I have mate in one. If he plays Kh8 or Kg8, I play Qxh7#.

Castling is usually a good move but in this game it proves fatal for black. The centre is closed so the king is safe there. In this game black attempts to generate counterplay on the queenside but loses because of my strong pawn centre and control of the h-file. Though castling is often a very good defensive manoeuvre, in this game it is much better for black not to castle.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Romanization of Korean Family Names

Korean family names often have a variety of spellings when they are romanized. This is due to a number of reasons. One is the spelling reform which changed the romanization of Korean and another is the inherent difficulties of representing family names with a different writing system. Also, many people prefer to keep the traditional spelling and thus have no desire to change it.

The three most common Korean family names are Kim, Park and Lee. In Korean they are 김, 박 and 이. The surname "Lee" is traditionally spelt with these three letters but in fact, the Korean pronunciation of the name is equivalent to "ee". It consists of a single vowel. However, the spelling "Ee" is never used for the surname.

The surname "Kim" is pronounced with an unaspirated velar plosive. Under the latest spelling reform, unaspirated velar plosives are now represented by a "g". As a result, the revised spelling of this name is "Gim". However, this spelling is not common. Without question, the traditional spelling dominates.

The surname "Park" can be spelt in many ways. The spelling "Park" is closest to the Korean pronunciation when it is pronounced with a non-rhotic accent because there is no liquid in the pronunciation of this name. Other spellings include "Pak", "Bark" and "Bak".

The surname "Lee" also has a variety of spellings. Other possible spellings of this common name are "Rhee" and "Yi". However, the traditional spelling "Lee" remains the most common. In fact, this family name is also very common in Chinese.

Other Korean family names can also be spelt in a number of ways. Here is a list of Korean family names with different possible spellings:

Kwon, Gwon, Kweon, Kwan
Jang, Chang
Jeong, Chung, Jung, Joung, Cheong
Yu, Yoo, You

The latest spelling reform changed the spelling of the "u" with the sound of the "u" in "up" to "eo". Traditionally, this sound was also represented by the letters "ou" as in "young". However, the traditional spelling of Korean family names remains popular.

Korean family names often have a variety of spellings in the Roman alphabet. In many cases a traditional spelling exists alongside a revised spelling. In other cases, the variety is due to the different possible ways of representing Korean pronunciation in Roman letters. However, it appears that the traditional spelling remains more popular than the revised one.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Quick Victory in Chess

In a recent chess game, I forced a resignation from my opponent on my tenth move. I played this game at letsplaychess.com. My opponent was Minoosh from France. In this game I played white. Here I provide the moves of the game along with my commentary.

1. e4 d5

Black chooses to play the Scandinavian Defence which is also known as the Centre-Counter Defence.

2. exd Qxd5

Another possible move for black here is Nf6.

3. Nc3 Qe6+

A more popular move for black here is Qa5.

4. Ne2 Nc6
5. Nb5 Qe5

I decide to threaten Nxc7+. Black replies by attacking my knight with his queen but this move is a mistake because he cannot keep his queen on the diagonal. Qd7 and Kd8 are better alternatives.

6. a4 a6

I push my queen rook pawn to support my knight and black immediately attacks my knight.

7. d4 Qf6

I attack black's queen and black moves his queen to the best square for his king knight. In this position black's best move is to take my pawn with his knight. In fact, d4 is not my best move because black can take my pawn with his knight. A stronger move is f4.

8. Nxc7+ Kd8

Black is forced to move the king.

9. Nxa8 e5

Black plays a very bad move. It is difficult to find a good move for black, but e6 is clearly better.

10. dxe+

Black cannot capture the pawn because he is in check. He resigns because on my next move I will capture his queen.

In this game black chooses to play the Scandinavian Defence. On his second move he brings out his queen and later moves her three more times. He does so at the expense of the development of his other pieces. I am able to attack his queen and take advantage of his exposed king. This is my key to victory.

Famous Quotes

Many quotes have been a source of inspiration or wisdom throughout history. For this reason, they have become famous. I wish to share ten famous quotes which are among my favourites.

Abraham Lincoln said, "You can fool some people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time."

John F. Kennedy is the source of two of my favourite quotes. The first is undoubtedly one of his most famous: "And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

He also said, "Change is the law of life. And those who only look to the past or present are certain to miss the future."

I love this quote by the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard: "Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."

Albert Einstein said, "A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new."

Winston Churchill is responsible for this inspiring quote: "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."

This beautiful quote is from Mother Teresa: "If you judge people, you have no time to love them."

Mahatma Gandhi is the source of many famous quotes. One of my favourites is "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."

I now quote George Bernard Shaw: "A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing."

My last quote is from Helen Keller. She said, "The best and most beautiful things in the world can not be seen or even touched. They must be felt in the heart."

I hope these quotes are as inspirational and memorable for you as they are for me.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Exciting Chess Game

I recently played one of the most exciting chess games I have every played. The game took place at letsplaychess.com. My opponent was Stagli of Croatia. He made a knight sacrifice that made me very nervous because my king was relatively exposed, but I was able to survive. In this game I played black. Now I will provide the moves along with my commentary.

1. e4 c5
2.Bc4 e6

I play e6 so that the white bishop cannot target f7.

3. Nc3 a6
4. a4 Bd6
5. Nf3 Nc6
6. 0-0 Nge7
7. d3 Qc7

My queen and bishop are a powerful force on the h2-b8 diagonal.

8. Be3 b6
9. Ng5 0-0

White's move seems premature to me because the knight has little support. Now that the h2 pawn is undefended, it is possible to play Bxh2+ and in fact, I wish I had played this move here!

10. f4 f6

White is playing aggressively.

11. Nh3 Kh8

I play Kh8 so that white's bishop will not be able to put my king in check at a later stage of the game.

12. Qh5 g6
13. Qh6 Ng8
14. Qh4 Bb7
15. f5 Bxh2+
16. Kh1 Bg3
17. Qg4 exf5
18. exf5 g5
19. Ne4 Bd6
20. Nhxg5 Ne5

Rather than play the immediate capture fxg5, I decide to fork white's queen and bishop with my knight.

21. Qh5 fxg5
22. Qxg5 Nxc4

White's move surprises me because I expect Nxg5 with the threat of mate on h7. I am prepared to play either h6 or Nf6 in defence but white's move demands a different move. I suspect his strategy is to push his f-pawn to f6 and mate with his queen on g7.

23. dxc4 Bxe4
24. f6 Rf7

My rook prevents mate.

25. Rae1 Raf8
26. Bd4 Bxg2+

White wants me to capture his bishop in order to exchange bishops and free space for his e-rook but I do not cooperate. I sacrifice my bishop to expose the white king and gain a pawn.

27. Qxg2 cxd4
28. b3 Nxf6

I finally move my knight but this move is not the best. Here it is better to play Rxf6 and offer an exchange of rooks.

29. Re2 Qb8
30. Ref2 Bc5
31. Qg5 Ne4
32. Rxf7 Nxg5
33. Rxf8 Bxf8

Down two pieces and one pawn, white decides to resign. Fortunately for me, his knight sacrifice does not succeed. This game is undoubtedly one of the most exciting I have ever played.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Foreign Words in Chess

Chess has a number of foreign words that players can use to make the game sound sophisticated. It is not surprising because chess is played all around the world but is undoubtedly most popular in western countries. Nevertheless, it is believed that the game first originated in India. Many of the foreign words used are from European languages.

The word "fianchetto" is derived from Italian and means "little wing". If white places the bishop on b2 or g2 and black places the bishop on b7 or g7, this is a fianchetto. If the bishop gains full control of the diagonal, it can turn into a big advantage.

The world "luft" is derived from German and means "air". If one of the three pawns in front of the king is pushed forward one square, the king has a little breathing room. It prevents the threat of a back rank mate because the king has a square to escape to.

The word "en passant" is derived from French and means "in passing". Pawns can only move one square forward at a time but when they have not yet moved there is the two-square option. They may move forward either one or two squares. Unlike bishops, knights, rooks, queens and kings, they move differently from the way they capture. They move vertically down the chessboard but capture diagonally.

The en passant move is only possible when a pawn is on its original square and moves two squares. If white has a pawn on e2 and pushes it to e4, black can capture if there is a black pawn on d4 or f4. Black captures as if the white pawn had moved to e3. However, this move must be played immediately after white's move. The black pawn captures the white pawn in passing because it captures on a square behind the white pawn.

Chess is a game which uses a number of words from languages other than English. These include the words "fianchetto", "en passant" and "luft". They give the game of chess both a sophisticated and international flavour.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Ergative Languages

Languages such as English are classified as nominative-accusative or simply accusative languages. However, a number of languages are classified as ergative-absolutive or simply ergative languages. Ergative languages are very different from accusative languages.

In accusative languages the subject of a transitive verb and intransitive verb are the same. The object of a transitive verb is different and is thus marked differently. This is illustrated by the sentences "He knows her" and "He is sleeping". In the sentence "She met him yesterday", the object "him" is marked differently from the subject "He".

In ergative languages the subject of an intransitive verb and the object of a transitive verb are the same. It is the subject of a transitive verb which is marked differently. In an ergative language, the subject of the sentences "He knows her" and "He is sleeping" are different. In the sentence "He is sleeping", the subject "He" is marked the same as the object in the sentence "She met him yesterday". However, the subject in a sentence such as "He knows her" is marked differently.

The subject of an intransitive verb can be analyzed as a patient or experiencer. In contrast, the subject of a transitive verb is an agent. In ergative languages, the patient is marked the same as the object.

The subject of an intransitive verb and the object of a transitive verb are referred to as the absolutive in an ergative language. The subject of a transitive verb is referred to as the ergative. In an accusative language, the subject of a transitive and intransitive verb is referred to as the nominative and the object of a transitive verb is referred to as the accusative.

In an accusative language such as English, the agent and the experiencer are marked the same and the object is different. In an ergative language such as Basque, the experiencer and the object are marked the same and the agent is different.

How would English look if it were an ergative language? Let us take the examples "He knows her", "He is sleeping" and "He met her yesterday" to exemplify. The subject of "He is sleeping" and the object of "He met her yesterday" would be marked the same. However, the subject of "He met her yesterday" would be marked differently.

If English were a hypothetical ergative language, the previous examples would look as follows:

He is sleeping.
*Him met she yesterday.
*Him knows she.

The asterisk is used to mark an ungrammatical sentence. In the examples we notice that the subject of the intransitive in "He is sleeping" is the same as the object of the transitive in "Him met she yesterday". In these examples, the subject of the intransitive and the object of the transitive are both subject pronouns.

Ergative languages are very different from accusative languages. Basque and Georgian are two of the world's ergative languages. In ergative languages, the distinction between subject and object of accusative languages is not made. Rather, the distinction is between agent and patient which is also known as agent and experiencer.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Nasal Vowels of French

The French language can be distinguished from many other languages by its nasal vowels. Languages such as English also have nasal vowels but they are followed by nasal consonants. French, however, has fully nasalized vowels which are not followed by nasals.

French has four nasal vowels. They are the low mid front unrounded, low mid front rounded, low mid back rounded and low back rounded nasal vowels. In a number of dialects, the low mid front rounded nasal vowel has disappeared in favour of the low mid front unrounded nasal. This is not surprising because the low mid front rounded vowel is far more marked than the unrounded one.

The low mid front unrounded nasal vowel occurs in a number of words. These include vin (wine), singe (monkey) and faim (hunger).

The low mid front rounded nasal vowel is less common than the low mid front unrounded. It occurs in words such as parfum (perfume), un (one) and lundi (Monday).

The low mid back rounded nasal vowel occurs in many words such as bon (good), son (sound) and long(long). The oral counterpart occurs in words such as beau (beautiful) and faux (false) but is in fact articulated with a higher tongue position than its nasal counterpart.

The low back unrounded nasal vowel also occurs in a number of words. They include an (year), blanc (white) and sans (without).

The nasal vowels are an important feature of the French sound system. Many languages such as English have nasal vowels which occur before a nasal, but French has fully nasalized vowels which occur without a following tautosyllabic nasal. The low mid front rounded nasal vowel has been replaced by its unrounded counterpart in a number of dialects. In this case, they have only three nasal vowels instead of four.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Numbers in Welsh

The Welsh language is a Celtic language primarily spoken in Wales. In Wales, the highest percentage of Welsh speakers is found in the northwest. The population of Wales is bilingual in Welsh and English.

The Welsh numbers from one to ten reveal that the Welsh language is rather different from English. As in English, the pronunciation is often rather distinct from the orthography The Welsh numbers from one to ten are: un, dai, tri, pedwar, pump, chwech, saith, wyth, naw, deg.

Now I will add my notes about the pronunciation.

un (the u sounds like the i of "radio")
dai (the ai sounds like the y of "my")
tri (the r is trilled)
pedwar (the r is trilled)
pump (the i sounds like the i of "it")
chwech (the ch is a velar fricative as in "Loch Ness" and the e sounds like the ay in "say")
saith (the ai sounds like the y of "my" and the th is a voiceless interdental fricative)
wyth (the wy sounds like the oy of "boy" and the th is voiceless)
naw (the aw sounds like the ow of "cow")
deg (the e sounds like the ay in "say")

The Welsh language is a language that is no longer as widely-spoken in Wales as it once was. This is due to the dominance of English. However, it is a source of Welsh pride and very much remains part of the Welsh culture and identity. An analysis of the Welsh numbers from one to ten indicates that many are relatively distinct from English.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Decisive Victory in Chess

I recently won a chess game at letsplaychess.com against Ruach, an opponent from the United Kingdom. He played white and I played black. In this game, I used a deadly check to force his resignation. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary:

1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4 e6

I play e6 so that the white bishop cannot target f7.

4. d3 Qc7
5. Ng5 e6

White's fifth move is bad. The knight is unsupported on g5. I decide to attack the white knight so that white is forced to retreat it.

6. Nf3 Bd6
7. g3 Nge7

White's seventh move serves little purpose. Developing a piece such as the knight on b8 is more sensible.

8. g4 f6

White moves his pawn to g4 in two moves when he can done so in one. This is a loss of time. I play f6 to counter his pawn attack.

9. h4 b6

White begins a pawn attack while I prepare to fianchetto my light-squared bishop.

10. Nc3 a6
11. d4 cxd

My eleventh move is the first capture of the game.

12. Nxd4 Bb7
13. Nxc6 Bxc6
14. f3 Bg3+

I check white's king to take the initiative and prevent the option of castling.

15. Ke2 b5

With my latest move I gain more space.

16. Bd3 Kf7

I move my king forward to connect my rooks. I decide not to castle because black has the potential to launch a strong attack on both wings.

17. g5 Be5
18. gxf gxf

Now the g-file is open.

19. Qf1 Ng6

I position my knight closer to white's king. It can now check white on f5 if white does not move his king.

20. Qg2 Rag8

My rook is now on the same file as the white queen.

21. a4 Nf4+

My check prepares a discovered attack on the white queen by my rook.

22. Bxf4 0-1

White captures my knight and then resigns. I can play Rxg7+, a devastating move which captures the queen and puts the king in check at the same time.

In this king white begins a premature pawn attack because his king is too exposed. He also makes moves which have no clear purpose and end up losing him time. He fails to see that my check on his king leads to a discovered attack on his queen. This forces his quick resignation.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Semantics of Containment

The semantics of containment can be well illustrated by the spatial preposition "in". This preposition has a number of similar but distinct meanings in languages. Examples from English can be given to illustrate.

In the following phrases the preposition "in" has a distinct meaning in each case:

a) the bird in the field
b) the bird in the tree
c) the toy in the box
d) the fruit in the bowl
e) the muscles in his foot
f) the desk in the corner
g) the water in the vase
h) the crack in the vase

In example (a) the bird may be standing or walking in the field but it may also be flying as many as several metres over the field. From the phrase it is not clear. In example (b) the bird may be inside a hole in the tree trunk but may also be sitting on a branch. In this case it is inside our projection of the shape of the tree.

In example (c) the toy is probably completely contained by the box. In example (d), however, the fruit may be entirely inside the bowl or may be on top of a pile of fruit in the fruit so that it protrudes from the top edge of the bowl.

Example (e) could just as easily be expressed with the phrase "the muscles of his foot". The muscles in his foot are where they are expected to be because they are an essential part of the foot. It is an example of inalienable possession.

In example (f) the desk is located in one part of the room. The phrase "in the corner" is more specific than "in the room".

The likely interpretation of phrase (g) is that most of the vase is filled with water but it may also mean that only a small fraction of the vase is filled with water. In phrase (h) it is clear that the crack refers to the surface of the vase. Phrases (g) and (h) refer to different types of containment.

The preposition "in" is commonly used to refer to types of containment. Though the meaning may initially seem very clear, a close anaylsis reveals that many types of containment can be expressed. These types of containment often have very distinct meanings across languages.

Monday, November 16, 2009

In Flanders Fields

"In Flanders Fields" is one of the most famous poems written during World War I and certainly the most famous Canadian poem. It was written by John McCrae. Here is the text of this poem:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Each verse consists of eight syllables. The lone exceptions are the final verses of the second and third stanzas which have only four syllables. The rhyme scheme of the poem is a,a,b,b,a,a,a,b,c a,a,b,b,a,c. The first two verses of each stanza begin with a,a. The stress pattern of the poem is weak, strong. The verses consist of four feet in which the second syllable of each foot is stressed. Thus the poem is in iambic tetrameter with the exception of two verses which are in iambic dimeter.

"In Flanders Fields" is a powerful poem which reminds us of the sacrifices made in war. The poppy which is red may symbolize the blood shed in the struggle for peace. The sweet song of the larks in the sky provides a strong contrast to the sound of guns heard on the battlefield.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Rhyme in Word Pairs of Languages

In many languages certain word pairs exhibit rhyme. This is particularly true in word pairs that are frequently used and express a relationship of direction and distance. The use of rhyme may be to emphasize the relation of the words to one another.

The adverbs "here" and "there" both relate to location but differ in distance. In many languages these words rhyme, end in the same consonant or begin with the same consonant. The latter is not an example of rhyme but is an example of alliteration. In the case of the same consonant ending but different vowels there is consonance. Here is a list for comparison:

English: here, there
Dutch: hier, daar
Danish: her, der
Norwegian: her, der
Swedish: ha:r, da:r
Spanish: aqui, ahi'/alli'
Finnish: ta:a:lla:, siella:
Hungarian: itt, ott
Japanese: koko, soko
Korean: yogi, kogi

The next list is for the demonstrative pronouns "this" and "that". In many languages this word pair also rhymes or has the same initial sound.

English: this, that
Dutch: dit, dat
Spanish: esto, eso
Portuguese: isto, isso
Italian: questo, quello
Finnish: ta:ma:, tuo
Hungarian: ez, az
Japanese: kore, sore
Korean: igo, chogo

The final list is for the directions "left and right".

English: left, right
German: links, rechts
Dutch: links, rechts
Danish: venstre, ho/jre
Norwegian: venstre, ho/yre
Swedish: va:nster, ho:ger
Spanish: izquierda, derecha
Portuguese: izquerda, direita
French: gauche, droite
Italian: sinistra, destra

In word pairs such as "here/there" and "this/that" many languages exhibit rhyme, alliteration and consonance. These sound similarities appear to be too great to be merely a coincidence. The sound similarities of these word pairs likely reflect the semantic similarity of the word pairs.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Northern Cities Vowel Shift

The Northern Cities Vowel Shift is a phenomenon in the vowel pattern of much of the United States. This shift has not spread to Canada. It was documented by the American linguist William Labov. It is strongest in cities such as Detroit, Chicago, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse. Since these are cities of the northeastern and midwestern United States, the phenomenon has been called the Northern Cities Vowel Shift.

The most notable vowel change in the Northern Cities Vowel Shift concerns the pronunciation of the low back unrounded vowel of words such as "father", "far" and "box". The low back unrounded vowel has shifted so that it is pronounced as either a central low central unrounded or even low front unrounded vowel. Thus the word "fox" sounds similar to the word "fax" to General American speakers.

The low front unrounded vowel raises so that it is pronounced as a lower mid front unrounded lax vowel as in the word "pet". Thus the word "bat" sounds similar to "bet" to General American speakers.

The mid front unrounded lax vowel retracts so that it is pronounced as a central mid unrounded vowel similar to the schwa. The result of this is words such as "pet" and "tell" have a more retracted pronunciation than in General American.

Another change is that the upper mid central unrounded vowel in words such as "but" and "up" is also pronounced with a more retracted pronunciation than in General American. This change is probably the least noticeable of the changes in the Northern Cities Vowel Shift.

In the Northern Cities Vowel Shift, a circular change affects the low vowels. The low back unrounded vowel becomes a more fronted vowel, either a central or front vowel. The low front vowel raises to become a lower mid front unrounded vowel, the lower mid front unrounded vowel becomes a mid central unrounded vowel and the upper mid central unrounded vowel becomes a more retracted vowel. This change has occurred in the pronunciation of many Americans.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

"Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" is a title of a famous poem by the American Robert Frost. It is a poem about nature and social responsibility. Here follows the poem.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Each verse consists of eight syllables which can be divided into four feet. Each foot consists of weak stress followed by strong. Thus the poem is written in iambic tetrameter. The rhyme scheme of the poem is a, a, b, a, b, b, c, b, c, c, d, c, d, d, d, d. In the last stanza we do not have the expected d, d, e, d but rather d, d, d, d.

The poem has images of winter. They include the references to the darkest evening of the year, the frozen lake and snow. The horse is surprised to be deep in the woods, far from the village. However, the rider is happy to take a break from his regular life and enjoy the nature all around him. He wishes to remain in the woods longer but acknowledges that he has social responsibilities in the verse "But I have promises to keep".

The poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" is a powerful poem about nature and duty. The narrator enjoys the tranquillity of the woods and the break which they provide him from his daily life. By reading the poem, one senses that Robert Frost had a very strong attachment to both nature and horses.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Speeds of Spoken Swedish and Danish

Studies in linguistics appear to indicate that the speeds of spoken Swedish and Danish are quite different. Though the two are closely related Germanic languages, they sound rather different in their spoken forms. Also, studies which have compared the speeds of Danish and Swedish speakers suggest that the speed of Danish speakers is 20-30% greater than that of Swedish speakers.

Since Danish and Swedish are closely related languages, particularly in their written forms, this is a remarkable difference. To illustrate the similarity of these languages, here are a few sentences:

I can't see them.
Jag kan inte se dem. (Swedish)
Jeg kan ikke se dem. (Danish)

You have a big house.
Du har ett stort hus. (Swedish)
Du har et stort hus. (Danish)

We travel every summer.
Vi reser varje sommar. (Swedish)
Vi rejser hver sommer. (Danish)

It rained a lot.
Det regnade mycket. (Swedish)
Det regnede meget. (Danish)

She looks happy.
Hon ser lycklig ut. (Swedish)
Hun ser lykkelig ud. (Danish)

Why is the speed of spoken Danish so much greater than that of spoken Swedish? A number of reasons can be given to explain this difference.

Danish has many word-final schwas where Swedish has full vowels. For example, the Swedish word for "four" is "fyra" and the Danish word is "fire". Undoubtedly, the final unstressed "a" in "fyra" has a longer duration than the unstressed "e" in "fire".

Danish does not have long consonants while Swedish does. The Danish word for "sit" is "sidde" but the double "d" is in fact a voiced interdental fricative with a short duration. The Swedish word for "sit", however, is "sitta". The double "t" is a long consonant with a long duration.

Many Danish words have silent letters. For example, the Danish word "bage" means "to bake" but the "g" is silent. In the Swedish counterpart "baka" every letter is pronounced.

Swedish has a pitch accent which Danish lacks. The Swedish word "komma" meaning "to come" has first-syllable stress but high pitch on both the first and second syllables. The pitch on the second syllable is not only high but also relatively long in duration. In contrast, the Danish word "komme" does not have high pitch nor long duration on the second syllable.

Danish often uses vowels with a shorter duration than Swedish does. For example, the word for "you" is "du" in both languages, but the vowels are different. Danish uses the vowel of Spanish and German but Swedish uses a different vowel. It is not a back vowel but rather a central vowel with a relatively long duration.

The Danish "r" vocalizes when it is word-final and preceded by a schwa. For example, the noun "parker" (parks) is pronounced as if it had a word-final "a". This means that the word-final "er" is only one segment. In Swedish, however, the word-final "er" of "parker" (parks) is two segments which results in a longer duration.

Though the Swedish and Danish languages are very similar to one another, the speeds at which they are spoken differ significantly. They have a number of differences in pronunciation which explain this phenomenon.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ambiguity

Ambiguity can be defined as a form of communication with two or more possible meanings. In many cases, however, one interpretation is more likely than the other. Ambiguity can be further classified into structural and lexical.

An example of ambiguity which I recall from studying linguistics is "He saw the man with binoculars". This sentence has two possible interpretations. It may mean that the subject used binoculars to see the man. In this case, the prepositional phrase "with binoculars" is a verb complement. However, another interpretation is that the subject saw a man who had binoculars. In the case, "with binoculars" is part of the noun phrase, a noun adjunct.

The likely interpretation is that the subject used binoculars to see the man. However, the other interpretation is also possible. The intended meaning is usually clear from context. If not, it is possible to disambiguate so that the intended meaning is clear. The sentences "He used his binoculars to see the man" and "He saw the man who had binoculars" are not at all ambiguous.

The sentence "He saw the man with binoculars" is an example of structural ambiguity. The position of the prepositional phrase makes two interpretations possible. However, if the prepositional phrase is shifted to the beginning of the sentence, only one interpretation is possible. This is the case with "With binoculars he saw the man". Now the phrase "with binoculars" is the verb complement of "saw".

"She drew five triangles and squares" has many possible interpretations. One interpretation is that the subject drew five triangles and five squares. In this interpretation, ellipsis leaves out "five" before the object "squares". Another interpretation is that the subject drew five triangles and an undefined number of squares. Also possible is the interpretation that the subject drew a combination of triangles and squares that totalled five. The possibilities are three triangles and two squares and two triangles and three squares. Thus the sentence "She drew five triangles and squares" has four different interpretations.

Another kind of ambiguity is lexical. For example, the sentence "They sat by the bank" is ambiguous because of the word "bank". It can refer to either a financial institution or the edge of a body of water such as a river. From context, however, the meaning is usually very clear. The more likely interpretation in this case is that "bank" refers to the edge of a river than to a financial institution.

The sentence "The lamb is too hot to eat" is ambiguous because it is not clear whether "lamb" refers to the live animal or to meat on a plate. If the lamb is alive, the animal has no appetite but may be very thirsty. If the lamb is meat to be eaten, the person who wants to eat it must wait for it to cool down. Ambiguity also occurs with the word "hot" in the interpretation in which "lamb" refers to meat. In this case, "hot" may mean at a high temperature or spicy. Despite the ambiguity of "The lamb is too hot to eat", the likely interpretation is that the meat is either at too high a temperature or too spicy to eat.

Many examples of ambiguity can be found in language. However, communication is usually clear because the meaning can be understood from the context in which it is communicated. If the meaning is not clear, it becomes necessary to disambiguate.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Mexican Children's Song

Francisco Gabilondo Soler wrote many songs for children that are well-known in Mexico. I used to listen to them as a child. My favourite was "El Chorrito" which means "The Little Jet" referring to the little jet shooting out of a fountain. Here is the Spanish text along with my English translation.

La gota de agua que da la nube como regalo para la flor
En vapor se desvanece cuando se levanta el sol;
Y nuevamente al cielo sube hasta la nube que la soltó.
La gotita sube y baja, baja y sube al compás de esta canción.

Allá en la fuente había un chorrito, se hacía grandote se hacía chiquito; (2x)
Estaba de mal humor, pobre chorrito tenía calor. (2x)

En el paisaje siempre nevado acurrucado sobre el volcán
Hay millones de gotitas convertidas en cristal.
En el invierno la nieve crece, en el verano la funde el sol.
La gotita sube y baja, baja y sube al compás de esta canción.

Ahí va la hormiga con su paraguas y recogiéndose las enaguas, (2x)
Porque el chorrito la salpicó y sus chapitas le despintó. (2x)

The drop of water which the cloud gives as a present for the flower
Dissipates into vapour when the sun rises;
And rises again to the sky up to the cloud which released it.
The little drop rises and falls, falls and rises to the compass of this song.

Over there in the fountain there was a little jet,
It made itself big, it made itself small. (2x)
It was in a bad mood, poor little jet was hot. (2x)

On the always snowy landscape nestled over the volcano
Are millions of little drops converted into crystal.
In winter the snow grows, in summer the sun melts it.
The drop rises and falls, falls and rises to the compass of this song.

There goes the ant with its umbrella and picking up its petticoats (2x)
Because the little jet splashed it and discoloured its cheeks. (2x)

This song is much more beautiful in the original Spanish language because the rhyme and rhythm are lost in the English translation. It is a classic among Mexican songs for children.

é

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Konglish

Konglish is an interesting variety of English used by Koreans. It bears many similarities to the English used in Japan. The word "Konglish" combines the words "Korean" and "English". In many cases, Koreans do not realize that they are using Konglish rather than standard English.

Konglish words are often very similar to English words. For example, the words "pine juice" and "hand phone" mean "pineapple juice" and "cell phone". In the first case the word "pineapple" is abbreviated and in the second the word "cell" is replaced by "hand". Another example of an abbreviation is "ballpen". This word means "ballpoint pen".

Many English plurals only have a singular form in Konglish. For example, "sunglasses" and "slippers" are "sunglass" and "slipper" in Konglish. This is understandable because Korean, although it has a plural marker, usually does not use it.

The word "hotchkiss" may be difficult for English speakers to understand. It is the Konglish word for "stapler" and in fact is the last name of E.H. Hotchkiss, an American company that was an early manufacturer of staplers. The meaning of the compound "golden time" may also be unclear to English speakers . It is "prime time" in standard English.

The words "back mirror" and "handle" are Konglish words which mean "rear view mirror" and "steering wheel". "Vinyl" means "plastic" and is also used in "vinyl house". In this case, it means "greenhouse". The expression "eye shopping" is the Konglish term for "window shopping".

Konglish can be described as a unique variety of English that is used by Korean speakers. Though many of the words used may be identifiable to English speakers, some undoubtedly are not.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Math Multiplication Tricks

A number of multiplication tricks can make multiplication fun and simple. In fact, these tricks make it possible to calculate equations in your head. It is simply a matter of practice.

To multiply squares of five, write down 25. All squares of five end in 25. Next, add one to the first digit and multiply. For example, 45x45=2025. We first write down 25. We then add 1 to the first digit which is 4. This gives us 5. We multiply 5x4 to get 20. We write 20 next to 25 to get the answer 2025.

Now we will do 85x85. We write down 25. We add 1 to 8 which is 9. We multiply 9 by 8 to get 72 and write it down to get 7225. 85x85=7225.

For squares of 90 to 99, we have a simple formula. Subtract the number needed to reach 100 from the square. For example, 98 is two from 100, so we subtract two to get 96. We write this number down. Next we square this number and write it down. 2x2=4, so we write down 4 but we need two digits to the right of 96, so we write 9604. 98x98 = 9604.

Now we will try 96x96. 96 is four from 100, so we write 92. Next we square four. 4x4=16, so we write 9216. 96x96=9216.

Unfortunately, not all squares are quite so simple. With 27x27, we need to use the closest multiple of ten to calculate the answer. The closest multiple of ten is thirty. It is three away, so we subtract three from 27 to get 24. Now we must multiply 24 by 30. This is 720. Now we square three to get nine and add this number. 27x27=729.

Now we can do 49x49. 49 is one from fifty, so we get 48. We multiply 48 by 50 to get 2400. Next we square one to get one. 49x49=2401.

With multiplication problems up to 20x20 we have a simple formula. We can use 16x13 as an example. Always start with the higher number because this makes the calculation easier to perform. Remove the first digit from 13 and this gives us 3. Now add 16+3. This gives us 19. Now add a 0 to 19 to get 190. Finally multiply the last digits of each number. We multiply 6x3 to get 18. We add 18 to 190 to get 208. 16x13=208.

Now we can do 19x14. We add 19+4 to get 23. Add a 0 to get 230. Now we multiply 9x4 to get 36 and add this number to 230. We get 266. 19x14=266.

With multiplication by 11, we also have a simple formula. If we want to calculate 54x11, we write down the 5 and the 4 with a space between them. We can write 5_4. Next we write the sum of 5 and 4 in this space. 5+4=9, so we write 594. 54x11= 594.

Now we can solve 72x11. We write 7_2 so that we have the 7 and 2 with a space between them. The sum of 7 and 2 is 9, so we write this in the space. 72x11=792.

If the sum if greater than ten, however, we write down the ones digit and carry over the tens digit. I can demonstrate with 67x11. We write 6_7. 6+7=13, so we write the ones digit in the space. This gives us 637 but we must add 1 to 6 to get the correct answer, 737. 67x11=737.

Multiplication tricks can make multiplication not only more enjoyable but possible to calculate with only your brain. It is simply a matter of practice. I wish that I had known these tricks when I was in school.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Stress of Compound Nouns in English

Many compound nouns in English consist of an adjective and a noun. In constructions consisting of an adjective followed by a noun, it is the noun which carries primary stress. In a compound noun constructed of an adjective and a noun, however, it is the adjective which carries primary stress.

A house that is green is a green house with primary stress on "house". A place for growing plants and vegetables is a greenhouse with primary stress on "green". A house that is white is a white house with primary stress on "house" but the residence of the President of the United States is the White House with primary stress on "White". A suit that has gotten wet is a wet suit with primary stress on "suit" but the suit worn by a scuba diver is a wetsuit with primary stress on "wet".

Spelling is unimportant because compound nouns can be written as one word, two words or even hyphenated. For example, "softball" is a one-word compound, "high school" is a two-word compound and "two-thirds" is a hyphenated compound.

Sometimes compound nouns do not carry compound stress. In other words, certain compounds do not carry primary stress on the first syllable. Most English speakers use compound stress in "apple sauce" but not in "apple pie". Likewise, most use compound stress in "potato chips" but not in "potato soup". In the latter case, the familiarity of the item may be a factor. More people eat potato chips than potato soup. However, this does not explain "apple pie" which is a popular dessert but is not pronounced with compound stress by most speakers.

Also interesting is that compounds with "cake" carry compound stress but compounds with "pie" usually do not. For example, the compounds "carrot cake", "plum cake", "lemon cake" and "cheesecake" carry first-syllable stress but in the English of most speakers the compounds "cherry pie", "pecan pie", "peach pie" and "lemon pie" do not.

However, the compound "chocolate cake" is a compound noun which many speakers do not pronounce with compound stress. This may be due to the syllabic structure of the compound. Speakers who stress the word "cake" in the compound "chocolate cake" use strong stress followed by weak and strong stresses to give the compound a regular rhythm. However, those who stress the first syllable use compound stress but use strong stress followed by two weak stresses to produce a rhythm which is less regular. In any case, not all compound nouns in English use compound stress.

Many of the compound nouns in English consist of an adjective and a noun. The stress of these compounds is different from the stress of constructions with an adjective and a noun. Compound nouns formed from an adjective and a noun carry primary stress on the adjective but constructions with an adjective and a noun carry primary stress on the noun. However, many compound nouns are an exception to this rule.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Chess Match of Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte was an accomplished chess player. In this game between Napoleon Bonaparte and General Bertrand, Napoleon Bonaparte defeats his general very convincingly. Here are the moves of the game along with my commentary. Napoleon Bonaparte is white and General Bertrand is black.

1. Nf3 Nc6

A more common reply for black here is Nf6.

2. e4 e5
3. d4 Nxd4
4. Nxd4 exd4
5. Bc4 Bc5

White can take the d-pawn with his queen but prefers to develop his bishop.

6. c3 Qe7
7. 0-0 Qe5

White castles to protect his king. Black advances the queen to protect the d-pawn and prevent white's e-pawn from advancing.

8. f4 dxc3+

White aggressively attacks the black queen but black ignores the attack and puts the white king in check.

9. Kh1 cxb2

Black is one move away from queening his pawn but his queen is under attack.

10. Bxf7+ Kd8

White prepares a bishop sacrifice. Black refuses the sacrifice because if he takes Kxf7, black can play fxe5 which not only captures the queen but puts the black king in check.

11. fxe5 bxa1 (Q)

White captures black's queen but black queens on a1.

12. Bxg8 Be7

Black does not take the bishop on g8 because if he plays Rxg8, white can fork the rook and bishop with Qe5.

13. Qb3 a5

White puts the queen on a square which exerts control over the b3-g8 diagonal and protects the knight on b1 and bishop on g8 at the same time. Notice that black's king is stuck in the centre of the board and the black queen is unaided on a1.

14. Rf8+ Bxf8

White sacrifices the rook. Black's reply is forced.

15. Bg5+ Be7

Black's reply is forced. If he plays Ke8, Bf7 and Qf7 are both checkmate.

16. Bxe7+ Kxe7

Again black's reply is forced.

17. Qf7+ Kd8

This is black's only legal move.

18. Qf8#

White has less material than black but emerges the victor. Black fails to get his king to safety and launches a premature attack against the white king. Only after getting his king to safety does white prepare his attack on the black king. In this game Napoleon Bonaparte teaches his general a lesson.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Predicate Logic

One area of semantics is predicate logic. It analyzes the internal structure of sentences. In predicate logic symbols are used to make a number of simple statements.

The sentences "Ann is sleeping" and "Joe paints" both have a simple subject-predicate structure. The subject is a referring expression (Ann, Joe) and the predicate gives information about the subject (is sleeping, paints).

The predicate can be represented by a capital letter. In the sentence "Ann is sleeping", this is "S" and in "Joe paints" this is "P".

The subject can be represented by a lowercase letter. This is called an individual constant. In "Ann is sleeping" this is "a" and in "Joe paints" this is "j".

Predicate logic forms begin with the predicate followed by the subject. The original sentences can be represented as follows:

Ann is sleeping: S (a)
Joe paints: P (j)

If one wishes to leave the identify of the subject unspecified one can use variables such as x and y. Thus, "Someone is sleeping" can be represented as S (x) and "Someone paints" as P (y).

The examples have only one noun. However, it is possible to use symbols in the analysis of sentences with more than one. For example, we can analyze sentences such as "Mark knows William" and "Helen likes Tom". These sentences have both a subject and an object.

The sentence "Mark knows William" can be represented as K (m, w) and the sentence "Helen likes Tom" can be analyzed as L (h, t). The order of the individual constants after the predicate letter mirrors English sentence structure. The subject comes before the object.

Other relational sentences can be represented in the same way. For example, "Ellen is younger than Olivia" is Y ( e, o). Here the predicate letter represents the comparative adjective "younger". Relations with three nouns are also possible. For example, the sentence "Paul prefers Danielle to Eleanore" is P (p, d, e).

Predicate logic aims to translate a sentence from an individual language into an expression in a universal metalanguage. This can be done with symbols which identify the subject-predicate structure of each sentence. It can also be viewed as a form of shorthand notation.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I Am Not Yours

The American poet Sarah Teasdale wrote "I Am Not Yours".

I Am Not Yours

I am not yours, not lost in you,
Not lost, although I long to be
Lost as a candle lit at noon,
Lost as a snowflake in the sea.

You love me, and I find you still
A spirit beautiful and bright,
Yet I am I, who long to be
Lost as a light is lost in light.

Oh plunge me deep in love--put out
My senses, leave me deaf and blind,
Swept by the tempest of your love,
A taper in a rushing wind.

Each verse consists of eight syllables and starts with an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one. The eight syllables form four feet. Thus the poem is in trochaic tetrameter. The second and fourth verses of each stanza rhyme but in the final stanza the rhyme is imperfect because "wind" and "blind" have different vowels.

In the first verse Sarah Teasdale says that she is not lost. By this she means that she has not abandoned her senses and lost her direction. She has control over her situation. However, she expresses that she wants to be lost. She uses the beautiful imagery of a candle lit at noon and a snowflake in the sea.

She acknowledges that her man loves her and sees the good in him. At the same time, she is unsatisfied because she does not feel sure about him. She seeks more from the relationship.

In the final stanza, she asks him to immerse her in love and overwhelm her senses. She wants to love him with all her heart. If she can do so, this will be the equivalent to a person who is deaf and blind. In other words, she will not wish to hear negative comments nor be able to see negative qualities in her man. This reminds us of the saying "Love is blind".

In the final two verses we have the images of a tempest and a taper in a rushing wind. The tempest represents love and the taper is the writer who wishes to be swept away with love. If the tempest puts out the candle, she has lost her senses and become lost as she wishes to be. However, the tone of the poem indicates that it may never happen because the passion and romance that she seeks is lacking.

The poem "I Am Not Yours" is very expressive. The images of a snowflake, candle and tempest make the poem memorable. The use of repetition is also very effective. This repetition is evident is verses three and four: "Lost as a candle lit at noon, Lost as a snowflake in the sea". They also lend to the poem a musical quality which has made it popular in the world of English poetry.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

English Syllable Stress

I decided to analyze the syllable length and stress of words in an English text. The text which I used is from the sample pages of Synergy, an English course for students in East Asia. I made a few modifications to the text so that it would be 100 words long and have 70 words of one syllable and 30 words of more than one.

Here is the English text which I analyzed:

I thought I’d just send you a quick note and let you know how I’m doing. I’m enjoying my new job very much, and all my colleagues are very friendly, but I have to work really long hours. Some days I start at eight and finish at about seven. I don’t really have a lunch break, but we order in sandwiches. At the moment I’m working on a new advertising campaign for toothpaste. I’m busy meeting clients and writing reports. How about you? How is your work in Tokyo? I’m looking forward to seeing you at the conference in August.

The syllable length of the words in this text is as follows:

monosyllabic 70/100 (70%)
disyllabic 27/100 (27%)
trisyllabic 2/100 (2%)
tetrasyllabic 1/100 (1%)

Next I analyzed the stress of the words more than one syllable in length. The disyllabic words in the text are:

doing, very, colleagues, very, friendly
really, hours, finish, about, seven
really, order, moment, working, campaign
toothpaste, busy, meeting, clients, writing
reports, Tokyo, looking, forward, seeing
conference, August

I analyzed "hours" as a disyllabic word but for some speakers it is monosyllabic. I also analyzed "Tokyo" as disyllabic although for many it is trisyllabic. In these 27 words, 24 have first-syllable stress and 3 have second-syllable stress. 88.9% of these words are stressed on the first syllable. The second syllable is stressed in only 11.1% of cases. The words with second-syllable stress are
"about", "campaign" and "reports".

The text has only two trisyllabic words. They are "enjoying" and "sandwiches". The former has second-syllable stress and the latter has first-syllable. The sample size here is too small to draw conclusions.

The only tetrasyllabic word in the text is "advertising". Here the stress is on the first-syllable. Again the sample size is too small to draw conclusions.

Based on the text, it appears that the majority of English words are monosyllabic. Monosyllabic words which appear more than once are the conjunctions "and" and "but", the pronoun "I", possessive adjective "my", articles "a" and "the" and prepositions "at" and "in".

The text also appears to indicate that most disyllabic words have first-syllable stress. Of the 27 disyllabic words in the text, 24 are stressed on the first syllable. Because only three words in the text have more than two syllables, no conclusions can be obtained about the stress of words with more than two syllables. However, two of the three words with three or more syllables have first-syllable stress, making it possible to speculate that first-syllable stress may be common in all words, but more evidence is needed to make this determination.

My analysis of the text suggests that the majority of English words are monosyllabic and that disyllabic words are usually stressed on the first syllable. The text did not include enough trisyllabic nor tetrasyllabic words for analysis. However, the fact that the text included few trisyllabic and tetrasyllabic words provides evidence that they are relatively rare in English.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Schwa Epenthesis and Schwa Deletion in Dutch

In 1996, Cecile Kuijpers, Wilma van Donselaar and Anne Cutler from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, Netherlands conducted a pyscholinguistic study on schwa epenthesis and schwa deletion in Dutch. Schwa deletion and epenthesis are optional in Dutch. In those cases in which schwa deletion and epenthesis occur we have phonological variation. Thus the forms without schwa deletion and epenthesis can be considered the standard forms and those with deletion and epenthesis the phonological variants.

The words "melk" (milk) and "elf" (eleven) are examples of words which can be pronounced with an epenthetic schwa. The epenthetic schwa only occurs with heterorganic consonant clusters. This makes sense because more articulatory effort is required to produce consonants which share different places of articulation. In "hals" (neck) and "damp" (vapour) no schwa epenthesis occurs. The word "hals" has two alveolars and "damp" has two bilabials. Since the clusters in those words are homorganic, the schwa epenthesis rule cannot apply.

In the word "kapelaan" (chaplain) schwa deletion can apply. English also has examples of optional schwa deletion. For example, many speakers delete the schwa of "interesting" and "different" to create the consonant clusters "tr" and "fr".

The goal of the auditory lexical decision experiment was to determine whether or not the participants would process the phonological variants as quickly and accurately as the standard forms. Since the phonological variants are optional, the prediction was that the standard forms would be processed more quickly and accurately.

The participants listened to standard realizations and phonological variants of real words as well as pseudowords. They needed to decide as quickly as possible whether the word was real or not. If they did not decide within 1.5 seconds, their response was recorded as missing.

The results only partially confirmed the predictions. The experiment revealed that it was easier to process the standard realizations of words than the phonological variants with schwa deletion but not in the case of schwa epenthesis. In the latter case, the phonological variants were processed as quickly and accurately as the standard realizations. The words with schwa epenthesis were easy to process for participants. The reason is probably due to the fact that the variants with schwa epenthesis had the CVC syllable structure in the coda, a more basic structure than the CCV in the onset of variants with schwa deletion.

Not surprisingly, the real words were processed more quickly than the pseudowords. Recognition of the real words certainly aided the participants in their responses.

The psycholinguistic experiment provided evidence that syllable structure is important in lexical decisions. Words with basic syllable structures are processed more quickly and accurately than those with complex ones. Also, standard forms and real words are processed more easily than phonological variants and pseudowords.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Chess Game Full of Surprises

I played a chess game which was full of surprises. Many of my opponent's moves were not the ones I expected, but I still managed a quick mate. The following game was played at letsplaychess.com. My opponent was Mhill of the USA. In this game I was white. I will now provide commentary of this short game.

1. c4 Nf6

My opening move is known as the English Opening. This is an unusual opening for me. I usually play e4, d4 or occasionally Nf3 as my opening move, but this time, I wanted to experiment with a new opening move. I expected my opponent to play e5, d6 or c5. His reply is more common when white starts with d4, but nevertheless prevents me from playing e4 on my next move.

2. Nc3 e5

We both fight for control of the centre.

3. d3 Nc6

My move opens a diagonal for my dark-squared bishop but blocks my light-squared one. Black now has the option of putting his knight on d4.

4. Be3 e6

My dark-squared bishop can now capture on d4. Black opens a diagonal for his light-squared bishop.

5. h3 Be6

My move prevents black from putting his knight on g4 and threatening my bishop. Black's move aims to exert more control over d5.

6. g3 Qe7

My move allows me to put my bishop on g2. Black is now prepared to castle.

7. Nf3 0-0

I develop my king knight. Black castles.

8. Bg2 e4

I fianchetto my bishop. Black strikes in the centre with his pawn. Though he only has a knight against my knight and pawn, if I capture with my d-pawn, he can capture my undefended c-pawn with his bishop. Also, he has a rook on the same file as my queen and my king is in the centre of the board, so I have to be careful.

9. Nd4 exd

I expect black to capture my knight with his knight, but to my surprise, he takes my d-pawn.

10. Nxc6 dxe

Now I expect black to capture my knight with his g-pawn which leaves him with doubled pawns. In another surprise, he captures my e-pawn and now threatens my queen.

11. Nxe7+ Bxe7

Black fails to see that I do not need to move my queen because my move puts him in check. This forces him to capture my knight.

12. Qxe2 d5

Now I capture black's pawn and he strikes in the centre.

13. cxd Bf5

I capture black's pawn and to my surprise, he does not recapture. Instead, he places his bishop on the b1-g6 diagonal. Maybe he aims to control e4 but this move seems to be a mistake. I think it is better to capture my d-pawn.

14. 0-0 g6

I finally castle. Black's move is a surprise. Maybe he fears g4, a move attacking his bishop but I think this move is too passive. Be6, aiming the bishop at my kingside, is more effective.

15. Bxa7 b6

I play this move to weaken black's kingside. His move aims to trap my bishop but is a blunder. It weakens his pawn shield and prompts my next move.

16. Qa6+ Kd7

I check black's king. Kd7 is his only legal move.

17. Qb5+ c6

I check black's king again because I do not want his king to escape via e8-f8. He blocks my check but this is not his best move. He can last longer with Kc8.

18. Qxc6#

My queen and pawn combine to give mate. All of black's pieces are on his half of the board.

In this game my opponent makes a number of moves that take me by surprise. Undoubtedly, he hopes to gain an advantage, but I exploit his mistakes to produce a quick mate. I manage to destroy the pawn shield around his king and prevent his king from escaping to safety.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Meter in English Poetry

Meter in English poetry consists of a combination of stressed and unstressed syllables which create rhythm. This combination can be further analyzed as a foot , a specific pattern of syllable types in each verse. However, it is important to note that many poems have a few verses which do not follow the overall pattern of the poem.

Meters that are common in English poetry include iambic and trochaic. To a lesser extent, English poems also use spondaic, anapestic, dactylic and amphibrachic. Iambic meter is the most common of all. This is the meter used in poems known as sonnets which consist of fourteen verses.

In iambic meter, the stress pattern is an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one. We see this pattern in the first verse of William Shakespeare's 18th sonnet: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" The verse has ten syllables divided into five feet, units consisting of unstressed and stressed syllables. Notice that "Shall" is unstressed and "I" is stressed. This pattern repeats itself throughout the verse.

Trochaic meter is the opposite of iambic. In trochaic meter, the first syllable is stressed and the second is unstressed. We see this pattern in the first verse of Robert Frost's "Fire and Ice": "Some say the world will end in fire". In this verse we have eight syllables and four feet.

Spondaic meter has no unstressed syllables. Here the pattern is two stressed syllables. This pattern is not so common in English poetry but can be seen in this verse from John Milton's Paradise Lost: "Rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens." Each word in this verse is monosyllabic.

Anapestic meter consists of three syllables in which the first two are unstressed and the third is stressed. We see this pattern in the first verse of Clement Clarke Moore's "The Night Before Christmas." The first verse is" Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house". The verse consists of twelve syllables which can be further divided into four feet.

Dactylic meter can be considered the opposite of anapestic. It also consists of three syllables but the first syllable is stressed and the last two are unstressed. An example of dactylic meter can be seen in this verse from Lord Alfred Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade": "When can their glory fade?" This verse has six syllables which can be further divided into two feet.

Amphibrachic meter also consists of three syllables. The first and third syllables are unstressed and the second syllable is stressed. Thus the syllable in the middle of the foot is stressed while the other two are unstressed. This meter is not so common in English poetry but occurs in poems known as limericks. The first verse of this untitled poem by Edward Lear is an example of amphibrachic meter: "There was a Young Lady from Norway."

Meter is an important part of poetry. The types of meter that are used can vary from one language to another. The most common types of meter in English are those that consist of two syllables: iambic, trochaic and spondaic. Those that consist of three syllables such as anapestic, dactylic and amphibrachic are also used but not as frequently. In fact, poems may use these types of meter in part because many poems use a combination of meters.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Differences between Canadian and American English

Many people have difficulty hearing the difference between Canadian and American English, particularly in the case of American English which is not spoken with a notable regional accent such as that of the south, New York or Boston.

The following list of ten words provides a good way to tell a Canadian apart from an American. While it is true that Canadians do not pronounce the words on this list identically, it is likely that their pronunciation will differ from that of an American in many instances if not all. My pronunciation of each word on this list differs from the American pronunciation.

The list of words is the following:

herb
progress
been
mom
lever
buoy
pasta
decal
mobile
sorry

I pronounce the word "herb" with an "h". In American English, the "h" is not pronounced.

In "progress", I pronounce the first syllable the same as the first syllable of "program". I also use this pronunciation for "process" but not for "project". However, many Canadians also pronounce "project" with the first syllable of "program".

For me, the word "been" rhymes with "teen" but many Canadians also use the American pronunciation which rhymes with "tin".

I pronounce "mom" to rhyme with "come" but I have also heard Canadians use the American pronunciation in which it rhymes with "calm".

My pronunciation of "lever" rhymes with "beaver" and not "never" which is the American pronunciaton.

For me, "buoy" sounds identical to "boy" and thus does not rhyme with "Louie" as in American English.

In "pasta", I use the "a" of "cat" in the first syllable and not the "a" of "father". This pronunciation seems to be very common in Canada.

For me "decal" rhymes with "heckle" but in American English it sounds similar to "decaf". It may be that the American pronunciation is relatively common in central Canada.

For me, "mobile" has the same diphthong as in "while" but in American English the final syllable rhymes with "rubble".

In the word "sorry", I use the "o" of "or" but Americans use the "o" of "gone". Other words in which this is the case are "tomorrow" (second syllable), "borrow" and "sorrow" (first syllable).

Canadian and American English share a number of similarities but they are not identical to one another. The list of ten words helps to prove this point.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mate with Two Rooks

I played the following chess game at letsplaychess.com. My opponent was Cholorico from Peru. In this game I played white and he played black. I will provide an analysis of this game.

1. e4 e5

2. Nf3 Nf6

3. Bb5 d6

My third move gives us the opening known as the Ruy Lopez or Spanish Game. It is a very popular opening at all levels. Black's most common reply here is a6, so I am a bit surprised when he plays d6.

4. d4 a6

Black cleverly avoids playing exd because then I will play Nxd4 and there will be a double pin on his queen knight.

5. Ba4 b5

I decide to keep my bishop and black plays aggressively, this time attacking my bishop with his b-pawn.

6. Bb3 Na5

Again I must move my bishop to safety. Black places his knight on the edge of the board where it attacks my bishop. At this stage of the game I expect that I will lose my bishop and end up with doubled pawns. At the same time, though, I can take consolation in the fact that I have developed two pieces, my bishop and knight, while black has only developed one, his knight.

7. 0-0 Bg4

I castle to protect my king while black develops his bishop to a square where it pins my knight.

8. dxe dxe

I open the centre because my king is protected and black's is not. I don't want to capture black's queen because to do so would give black control of the d-file. In this case, I prefer that he capture my queen instead so that I can recapture with my rook and control the d-file.

9. Bxf7 Ke7

I make the decision to sacrifice my bishop. I decide the sacrifice is safe and expect black to accept it. If he accepts the sacrifice with Kxf7, I can played Nxe5+ and later capture his bishop with Nxg4. Because black loses material by accepting the sacrifice, he decides to refuse it. Not only do I keep my bishop but I am up a pawn and also ensure that his king remains in the centre.

10. Bxg8 Qxd1

I take black's knight. This follows the principle that when one is ahead in material, it is good to exchange pieces. White takes my queen but by doing so he loses control of the d-file.

11. Rxd1 Rxg8

12. Nc3 c6

I develop my knight and black advances his c-pawn. Black advances his pawn to c6 instead of c5 because he doesn't want to give me the option of using the d5 square as an outpost for my knight.

13. Bg5+ Ke7

I develop by bishop with check. Black decides to keep his king in the centre. However, a better move is f7 because black's king is safer near his pawns.

14. Rd3 Bb4

I place my rook on d3 for two reasons. It prepares Rad1, a move that doubles my rooks on the d-file and also gives me the option of recapturing on c3 and f3 with my rook in the event that black captures my knights. By recapturing with my rook, I avoid doubled pawns.

15. Rd1 Bxc3

I double my rooks on the d-file and black captures my queen knight.

16. bxc3 Bxf3

I decide that it is more important to keep my rooks on the d-file than to worry about doubled pawns. Blacks captures my remaining knight.

17. gxf3 h6

I now have two sets of doubled pawns but see that my control of the d-file might give me a quick mate. Black's move threatens my bishop but it is a mistake. Black has no time for this move because his king is too exposed. At this stage, he must play Kf7 to prolong the game.

18. Rd7 Bg5

I ignore the attack on my bishop and prepare to mate my opponent. Black captures my bishop.

19. Rd1d6#

With my control of the d-file and my e4 pawn, black's king has no escape. It is checkmate.

This game illustrates the importance of keeping the king safe, controlling the centre and dominating files. My control of the d-file, centralized pawn on e4 and protected king allowed me to achieve a quick checkmate. Though in the end I had less material than my opponent, I was victorious.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Verb Position in Indirect Questions

In English the verb position in indirect questions is usually different from that of direct questions. Indirect questions can also be called embedded clauses because they are attached to clauses known as matrix clauses.

The following examples will help to clarify the difference in the verb position of direct and indirect questions.

Where is he?
I can't remember where he is.

In the indirect question the verb follows the pronoun "he".

What is she doing?
I can't remember what she is doing?

Here the auxiliary verb "is" follows the pronoun "she" in the indirect question.

Which bag is hers?
I can't remember which bag is hers.

Here the verb position is the same in both cases.

Who did she see?
I can't remember who she saw.

Here not only the verb position is different but in the indirect question we have a main verb in simple past rather than the auxiliary in simple past and a base verb.

When can she come?
I can't remember when she can come.

Again we see the familiar pattern where the auxiliary follows the pronoun in the indirect question.

What is the fastest way to get there?
I can't remember what the fastest way to get there is.
I can't remember what the fastest way is to get there.
I can't remember what is the fastest way to get there.

In this case the verb position of the indirect question can vary. It can come at the very end of the sentence, at the end of the noun phrase "the fastest way" or after the pronoun "what".

What is going to happen?
I can't remember what is going to happen.

Here the verb position is the same in both cases.

Do you know what the capital of Tahiti is?
I can't remember what is the capital of Tahiti.
I can't remember what the capital of Tahiti is.

Here the verb position of the indirect question varies. It may come again the pronoun "what" or at the end of the noun phrase "the capital of Tahiti".

In English we usually have a different verb position in direct and indirect questions. With short questions such as "Where is he?" this is invariably the case. However, with the pronoun "which" this does not apply. With "which", the verb position is the same in both direct and indirect questions.

With direct questions that have the auxiliary verb "do", it does not appear in indirect questions. With a be verb followed by "going to", the verb position is invariable. In direct questions with a long noun phrase, the verb position of the indirect question can vary. It may be the same as in the direct question, follow the noun or come at the end of the sentence.

The verb position of direct and indirect questions in English is usually different. However, it is sometimes the same and in the case of long noun phrases may occur in as many as three different places. Thus, the position of the verb in indirect question sometimes varies.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sun and Moon

High above earth, sun and moon work as one,
Guarding sky and space in perfect accord.
Day and night they exhibit unison,
Their light and warmth an enduring reward.
Burning constantly is the ball of light,
Flames of fire extending to all below.
When day disappears, the moon signals night,
Reflection of light her comforting glow.
Throughout time the two have served to inspire
With their radiant light and wondrous colour.
Full moons, sunrises and sunsets of fire
Grace our vast universe with their wonder.
Changing form to mark the time and season,
Burning sun and glowing moon become one.
Celestial bodies of deepest passion,
They love one another, our moon and sun.

This poem was inspired by Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan. I've never visited it, but have seen many pictures. In this poem, I aim to capture the special relationship of the sun and moon. The rhyme scheme is a regular a,b and each verse has ten syllables. In the final verse, I personify the sun and moon by comparing them to a couple deeply in love with one another. My poem symbolizes not only love but also co-operation, inspiration, perserverance and dedication.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Functional Syntax

Of the various types of syntax, functional syntax is not very popular. In fact, the study of functional syntax is less common today than it used to be. It probably reached its height of popularity in the 1970's. Nevertheless, it is useful for analyzing the function of phrases in sentence structure.

I will illustrate the use of functional syntax with infinitive clauses. The bare infinitive consists of a verb as in "I must go" and "They can come". In both examples, the infinitive is preceded by a modal. In other cases, though, the infinitive consists of a particle, "to" and a verb. This is illustrated in the example "Oliver needs to study." Here the infinitive consists of "to study". This infinitive can be classified as a clause consisting of a particle and a verb but the infinitive clause can be expanded as in the following examples: "Oliver needs to study more", "Oliver needs to study math", and "Oliver needs to study because he has an exam tomorrow".

Now let us consider the different functions of infinitive clauses. The following sentence is a famous one: "To err is human". In this sentence the infinitive clause is "To err". It has a nominal function because it can be replaced with the pronoun "It." In the sentence "I want to eat now", the infinitive clause "to eat now" also has a nominal function because it can be replaced by the pronoun "it". In the sentence "To graduate in one year is Martina's goal", the infinitive clause "To graduate in one year" also has an nominal function.

In the sentence "Erik Frost is the man to lead our company", the infinitive clause "to lead our company" has an adjectival function. It describes the kind of man that Erik Frost is. In the sentence "The best way to remain healthy is a good diet and regular exercise", the infinitive clause "to remain healthy" has an adjectival function because it modifies the noun "way".

Infinitive clauses can also have an adverbial function. Consider the sentence "Richard is taking Chinese this semester to prepare for his trip to China". The infinitive clause "to prepare for his trip to China" has an adverbial function because it modifies the verb "taking" and also answers the question "Why is Richard taking Chinese this semester?". In the sentence "Paul is too sick to go out", the infinitive clause "to go out" also has an adverbial function because it modifies the adjective "sick". It functions as an adverb also known as a degree word such as in the examples "so hot", "very tired" and "really windy".

Functional syntax is a type of syntax which is rarely studied today. Despite its relative obscurity, it can be very useful for the study of the function of different elements of sentences. One example is the study of the different functions of infinitive clauses.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Names of Cities in Different Languages

I decided to compare the names of twenty well-known European cities in ten different languages. The languages I chose were four Germanic, four Romance and two Uralic. They were English, German, Dutch, Swedish, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Hungarian and Finnish. In the list below, I provide the names of the cities in their respective languages. The order is the same as in this paragraph.

Paris, Paris, Parijs, Paris, Pari’s, Paris, Paris, Parigi, Pa’rizs, Pariisi

London, London, Londen, London, Londres, Londres, Londres, Londra, London, Lontoo

Stockholm, Stockholm, Stockholm, Stockholm, Estocolmo, Estocolmo, Stockholm, Stoccolma, Stockholm, Tukholma

Milan, Meiland, Milaan, Milano, Mila’n, Mila~o, Milan, Milano, Mila’no’, Milano

Rome, Rom, Rome, Rom, Roma, Roma, Rome, Roma, Ro’ma, Rooma

Vienna, Wien, Wenen, Wien, Viena, Viena, Vienne, Vienna, Be’cs, Wien

Florence, Florenz, Florence, Florens, Florencia, Florenc,a, Florence, Firenze, Firenze, Firenze

Naples, Neapel, Napels, Neapel, Na’poles, Na’poles, Naples, Napoli, Na’poly, Napoli

Warsaw, Warschau, Warschau, Warszawa, Varsovia, Varso’via, Varsovie, Varsavia, Varso’, Varsova

Munich, Mu:nchen, Mu:nchen, Mu:nchen, Mu’nich, Munique, Munich, Monaco, Mu:nchen, Mu:nchen

Lisbon, Lissabon, Lissabon, Lissabon, Lisboa, Lisboa, Lisbonne, Lisbona, Lisszabon, Lissabon

Berlin, Berlin, Berlijn, Berlin, Berli’n, Berlim, Berlin, Berlino, Berlin, Berliini

Brussels, Bru:ssel, Brussel, Bryssel, Bruselas, Bruxelas, Bruxelles, Bruxelles, Bru:sszel, Bryssel

Prague, Prag, Praag, Prag, Praga, Praga,Prague, Praga, Pra’ga, Praha

Hamburg, Hamburg, Hamburg, Hamburg, Hamburgo, Hamburgo, Hambourg, Amburgo, Hamburg, Hampuri

Moscow, Moskau, Moskou, Moskva, Moscu’, Moscovo/Moscou, Moscou, Mosca, Moszkva, Moskova

Venice, Venedig, Venetie:, Venedig, Venecia, Veneza, Venise, Venezia, Velence, Venetsia

Athens, Athen, Athene, Aten, Atenas, Atenas, Athe`nes, Atene, Athe’n, Ateena

Geneva, Genf, Geneve, Geneve, Ginebra, Genebra, Gene`ve, Ginevra, Geneva, Geneve

Belgrade, Belgrad, Belgrado, Belgrad, Belgrado, Belgrado, Belgrade, Belgrado, Belgra’d, Belgrad

Moscow has two forms in Portuguese. Moscovo is European and Moscou is Brazilian. The cities with the most variants are Moscow (ten variants if we include European Portuguese and nine with Brazilian) and Athens, Venice and Warsaw with nine variants each. Stockholm has the fewest variants at four. The name "Stockholm" in used in six languages: English, German, Dutch, Swedish, French and Hungarian. Two languages, Spanish and Portuguese, use "Estocolmo".

The list shows that the names of many European cities can vary significantly from one language to another. This is often not the case for cities of other continents. The reason for this variation is probably due to the history and importance of these cities in the languages discussed here.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Opening Trap

At the highest levels of chess it seldom happens, but at other levels players may often fall victim to an opening trap. In the following game played between Canadians Serge Lemieux and Dimitri Feoktistov in 2001, Serge Lemieux was the victim. The game was so short that he resigned after only six moves. The moves are as follows:

1. d4 d5
2. c4 e6

Lemieux plays the Queen's Gambit. He offers Feoktistov his c-pawn because he wants to play e4 on his third move to increase his control of the centre. If black plays dxc on his second move, this opening is known as the Queen's Gambit Accepted. However, if black declines the pawn as in this game, we have the Queen's Gambit Declined.

3. Nc3 Nf6
4. Bg5 Nbd7

With his fourth move, white pins black's knight because if the knight moves, white can capture the queen. Black opts to defend the king knight with his queen knight.

5. cxd exd
6. Nxd5 Nxd5

After the exchange of pawns, white plays Nxd5 with the belief that he has won a pawn. He does not expect black to play Nxd5 because to do so is to expose the black queen to capture. To his complete surprise, black sacrifices his queen. Realizing that black has a superior position, white resigns.

If white plays Bxd8 on his seventh move, black plays Bb4+. The only way white can reply to the check is with Qd2. Then black plays Bxd2+. White must recapture with Kxd2 but then black plays Kxd8 and he is ahead in material.

White's sixth move is a blunder. Because he must lose his queen after 7. Bb4+, the capture of the d-pawn by the knight on the sixth move is premature. To prevent the loss of the queen to the check by the bishop, white can play moves such as a3 or Nf3 on his sixth move.

This game features a well-known opening trap that can be very successful against an unsuspecting opponent. In this trap, the queen sacrifice is only temporary because black later regains the queen with a material advantage.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

What is a dialect?

A dialect is simply a mutually comprehensible variant of a language. Some claim that the true difference between a language and a dialect is that a language has an army and a dialect does not.

Let me explain. The languages of Swedish, Norwegian and Danish are usually mutually comprehensible to the speakers of all three languages, particularly in the case of spoken Swedish and Norwegian.

For political reasons, though, they are always referred to as languages. Danes tend to have more difficulty understanding Swedish than Norwegian, but if the language is spoken slowly and clearly, they usually understand it very well. In their written forms, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian are all easily understood by the speakers of those particular languages.

Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian are essentially the same language, but for political reasons, they are referred to as separate languages. It is true that they have different writing systems. Serbian is written in Cyrillic and Bosnian and Croatian are written in the Roman alphabet. However, they are all easily understood in their spoken forms.

Hindi and Urdu are also essentially the same language, but for political reasons are considered separate. Hindi is spoken in India and Urdu in Pakistan. Not only are they spoken in different countries but also by members of different religions. Most speakers of Hindi are Hindus and most speakers of Urdu are Muslims.

The Chinese dialects of Mandarin, Cantonese and Hakka share the same writing system but are mutually incomprehensible in their spoken forms. For political reasons, though, they are usually referred to as dialects. Calling them dialects gives the impression that all Chinese speak the same language, but of course this is far from the case. If Mandarin, Cantonese and Hakka had phonetic writing systems, there is no question that they would not be mutually comprehensible in any form. The writing systems make it possible to preserve a sense of unity. The Tibetan language, however, written in a different script, is not comprehensible to speakers of languages such as Mandarin, Cantonese and Hakka in any form. However, it is also banned by the Chinese government at school or work, so many Chinese may not even be aware of its existence.

To be called a dialect, a variety of a language usually has differences in pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary. However, sometimes dialects of a language may be more incomprehensible than two separate languages. For example, speakers of standard Italian may have an easier time understanding French or German than understanding Sicilian. This is particularly true if they have studied those languages and had little or no exposure to Sicilian.

The definition of a dialect can be a tricky one, but generally we regard it as a variant of a particular language such as American English, Australian English, Canadian English and British English. For political reasons, dialects may be referred to as languages or languages as dialects. Some may claim that they do not speak a dialect but the truth is that every speaker has a dialect regardless of how standard it may be.

Friday, July 31, 2009

She Walks In Beauty

The poem "She Walks in Beauty" was written by Lord Byron in 1814. It is one of his most popular poems. I will discuss this poem in this post.

She Walks in Beauty

She walks in beauty like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, so eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

The poem consists of three stanzas of six verses each. Each verse has eight syllables in which the second is stressed. This is known as iambic tetrameter. In other words, each verse has four feet (each foot has two syllables) and the final syllable of each foot has stress. We also notice that the poem has a regular rhyme. The rhyme scheme is a,b, a, b, a, b, c, d, c, d, c, d, e, f, e, f, e, f.

The second verse of the first stanza has alliteration in "cloudless climes" and "starry skies". The final verse of the first stanza personifies both heaven and day.

In the third verse of the second stanza appears the phrase "raven tress". This refers to every dark curl of the woman's hair. Her thoughts express her purity and sweetness.

The final stanza reveals the woman's charm. She is described as calm, eloquent and good. In the final verse, we are told that she has a heart whose love is innocent. She does not love for selfish reasons but to make others happy. Clearly she is an amazing woman who makes a favourable impression upon others.

Lord Byron's poem is filled with beautiful imagery, regular rhyme, personification and alliteration. These poetic devices are common in classical poetry. His praise of the woman and skilful use of words help to explain the popularity of this classic.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Indonesian and Tagalog

Indonesian and Tagalog are both classified as members of the Austronesian language family. Nevertheless, they are not considered mutually intelligible. A comparison of the numbers from one to ten reveals that they are related but not so closely.

To compare here are the numbers from one to ten in Indonesian and Tagalog:

Indonesian: satu, dua, tiga, empat, lima, enam, tujuh, delapan, sembilan, sepuluh
Tagalog: isa, dalawa, tatlo, apat, lima, anim, pito, walu, siyam, sampu

The words for the number one bear little similarity to one another. However, they both have the syllable "sa". The number two is different. Here we see that both words start with a "d" and end with an "a" but the Tagalog word is considerably longer. The number three starts with a "t" in both languages, but the words appear to be quite different. In the case of the number four, both words are disyllablic and have the same final syllable. The word five is identical in both languages. The number six is clearly related. In both languages it is disyllabic and shares the nasals "m" and "n". The words for the number seven appear rather different but they are both disyllabic and have a back vowel in the final syllable. The number eight is rather different in both languages but both languages have an "l" as the third segment. With the number nine, the Indonesian word is considerably longer, but in both languages the first segment is an "s" and the final segment is a nasal. In the case of the number ten, the Indonesian word is again longer but both words start with the same segment and share a "p" and a "u". The similarity of the two words is thus evident.

A comparison of the numbers from one to ten in Indonesian and Tagalog reveals that the two languages are related. However, the degree of similarity of the two languages is not as great as it is between other languages such as Czech and Slovak, Spanish and Portuguese and German and Dutch.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Palatalization

Palatalization is a common phonological process in which a sound develops a palatal articulation. It can be classified into three different types. They are 1) a secondary articulation which attaches itself to a primary articulation; 2) an advanced articulation and 3) a change in the manner of articulation.

Russian is an example of a language with a great deal of palatalization. The word for "thank you" is spasiba, a word with actually has a palatal glide before the high front vowel "i". A more acurate representation of the pronunciation of this word is "spasyiba". Because the high front unrounded vowel "i" is articulated near the palate, it is easy to insert a palatal glide before the vowel. However, another view is that the alveolar fricative is in fact a palatalized alveolar fricative because the fricative has a much longer duration than the glide. In this view the alveolar fricative is analyzed as the primary articulation and the palatal glide as the secondary. If this is the case, the word can be represented as spas'iba. The Russian word for five, "pyat'", is clearly an example of a secondary articulation attached to a primary one. Both the alveolar plosive and the palatal glide occur in the syllable coda, a sound sequence which is common in the Slavic languages but does not occur in many other languages such as English, German, Spanish and French.

An example of an advanced articulation occurs in the word "key". If we compare this word to the word "car", it is clear that the voiceless velar plosives in each word are not identical. In the word "key", the velar plosive has a more advanced articulation than it does in the word "car". The reason for the advanced articulation of the velar plosive in the word "key" is due to the articulation of the vowel. It is a front vowel which results in a more palatal articulation of the velar plosive. This can be viewed as a type of assimilation because the velar plosive becomes more similar to the vowel which follows it. Since the vowel influences the preceding segment, the direction of the assimilation is regressive.

With the words "car" and "key", one may ask how we know that the velar plosive of "key" is in fact an advanced articulation and that the velar plosive of "car" is not a retracted articulation. In isolation, the velar plosive does not have an advanced articulation. Other evidence comes from the word "cheese". This word used to be pronounced "keese" [kiz] but the velar plosive became an alveopalatal affricate. In German this word is Ka:se, in Dutch it is "kaas", in Spanish it is "queso" and in Portuguese it is "queijo". It becomes clear that only in English did the velar plosive become an affricate and it is plausible to speculate that it developed an advanced articulation prior to affrication.

Another common type of palatalization is in the change of articulation. In the word "nature" the "t" is pronounced as a voiceless alveopalatal affricate. However, this was not always the case. In French "nature" and German "Natur" the "t" is pronounced as a plosive. This was almost certainly also the pronunciation of the word "nature" at an earlier stage of English. The schwa in the second syllable of "nature" is classified phonetically as a central vowel, but the high articulation often triggers palatalization. This is also the case in words such as "creature", "feature" and "capture".

In English, a number of words may or may not have palatalization depending on the speaker. In most of England, palatalization applies in the words "tube", "new" and "duty". The first segment in each of these words is pronounced with the blade of the tongue, sounds which are known as coronals. In most of the United States, the words "tube", "new" and "duty" are pronounced without palatalization, a process which is often referred to as yod-dropping. For those speakers who do not palatalize, "do" and "dew" sound the same, but for those who do, they are distinct. In the case of words which start with the voiceless alveolar fricative such as "suit" and "sue", most British speakers do not palatalize but a few do.

The phonological process of palatalization is very common in the languages of the world. In the case of the Slavic languages, it is especially common. Palatalization can be viewed as a subclass of assimilation and can be further classified into three types, the attachment of a secondary articulation to a primary one, a more advanced palatal articulation, and a change in the manner of articulation of a particular segment.